Ancient history

2nd Armored Division (Leclerc Division)

Last updated:2022-07-25

The 2nd Armored Division (2nd DB) is a French military unit of the armored and cavalry arm created during the Second World War by General Leclerc. It is sometimes called Division Leclerc or even Armée Leclerc.

The current heir to its traditions is the 2nd Armored Brigade (2e BB).

Creation and different denominations

1941:Leclerc column.
February 1943:Leclerc column becomes "Force L" (like Leclerc) as part of the British 8th Army.
March 1943 :the "Force L" integrates the "Flying Column", commanded by Commander Jean Rémy.
May 30, 1943:the "Force L" officially becomes the 2nd DFL (Free French Division).
24 August 1943:the 2nd DFL becomes the 2nd DB (armored division).
31 March 1946:dissolution.
1977:new creation of the 2nd DB.
1999:becomes the 2nd BB (armored brigade).

Staff Parking

March 11, 1945 - March 31, 1946:Visit of General Leclerc. The march of the 2nd D.B. resounds for the first time. The staff of the 2nd Armored Division moved to Saint-Germain-en-Laye (Seine-et-Oise).
1959 - 1977:Staff of the 2nd Armored Division attached to the 8 DM, is based in Saint-Germain-en-Laye (Seine-et-Oise).
1977 - 1983:2nd DB Staff is based in Saint-Germain-en-Laye (Yvelines ).
1983 - 1999:2nd Armored Division headquarters moved to Versailles (Yvelines).
1999 - 2010:2nd Armored Division headquarters moved in Orléans in the Bellecombe district (Loiret).
July 2010:2nd BB headquarters moved to Illkirch-Graffenstaden (Bas-Rhin) in the Leclerc district.

History of garrisons, campaigns and battles

World War II

Desert War

Its origin goes back to the Leclerc column of the FFL which took the oasis of Koufra on March 1, 1941 during the desert war. The next day, the Koufra oath is taken, which General Leclerc fulfills point by point.

The following year, in 1942, the Leclerc column carried out a series of raids towards Fezzan (in Libya). In 1943, Fezzan was conquered and the Leclerc column joined the 8th British Army, which it accompanied in the Tunisian campaign, notably in Ksar-Rhilane.

Birth of the 2nd DB

On May 15, 1943, this force was transformed into the 2nd Free French Division at Sabratha in Libya and on August 24, 1943, it was redesignated as the 2nd Armored Division at Témara (French Protectorate of Morocco).

Its workforce comes partly from the Free French Forces but mainly from the African Army. This merger into a single division, of units from these two armies, is a unique case.

This division, which had to pass through Great Britain, was, according to the demands of the Americans and the British, "whitewashed" during its formation in the summer of 1943 and had only one black soldier, Claude Mademba Sy. According to several historians, such as Christine Levisse-Touzé and Olivier Forcade, North Africans, numbering 3,600 (probably less than half of whom are North Africans), represent approximately 25% of its workforce. 500 foreign volunteers, mainly Spanish Republicans, also join its ranks

Re-equipped with American equipment, she embarked on April 11, 1944 in Casablanca and Mers el-Kébir for the United Kingdom and disembarked in Swansea after eleven days of crossing.

Arms and articulation

Each tank, armed with a 75 cannon and three machine guns and having a transmitter-receiver station, was served by 5 men (a tank commander, a driver, a loader, a gunner and a gunner). They had individual weapons (Colts, submachine guns), a hundred piercing, explosive or smoke shells and thousands of machine gun cartridges (7.62 and 12.7) and grenades. Each squadron consisted of 17 M4 Sherman tanks and 3 half-tracks, 2 of which served as mobile repair workshops. There were also two Dodge trucks towing trailers and a 57mm anti-tank piece. A GMC truck carried the reserve fuel. Two Jeeps for the captain and the lieutenant in charge.

In total, the division had 4200 vehicles.

Battle of Normandy

From August 1, 1944, she landed at Utah Beach, being attached to General George Patton's Third American Army, which welcomed General Leclerc as soon as he arrived.

The French division is associated with the 5th Armored Division and the 79th American Infantry Division to form the 15th Army Corps commanded by General Haislip. After its regrouping at La Haye-du-Puits (Manche), the division received the order to advance due south on the roads of Cotentin, then towards Le Mans, in Operation Cobra. A platoon from Groupement Tactique Langlade briefly saw fire at Mortain during the German offensive on 7 August6, but the unit was however quickly relieved of this mission. Indeed, taking advantage of the “bottleneck” of Avranches, Leclerc launched his division towards Vitré and Château-Gontier, then towards Le Mans.

The 2nd Armored Division in Sarthe

From Le Mans, the attack of General Haislip's XV American Army Corps towards Alençon is scheduled for August 10 at 7 a.m. To do this, the maneuver required pivoting the entire 5th American Armored Division due north to Le Mans, with Savigné-l’Évêque, Bonnétable, Marolles-les-Braults, Mamers, then the forest of Perseigne as its axis of progression. General Leclerc's 2nd Armored Division was given the task of carrying out the same offensive on the left of the 5th Armored Division, in the Le Mans - Alençon axis.

The city of Le Mans is liberated by American troops on August 8. The 2nd Armored Division bypasses the city from the west and north (see La Chapelle-Saint-Aubin). From Sablé-sur-Sarthe, it goes up towards Loué. The Germans set up a line of defense on the Saint-Marceau axis at Bonnétable, with the troops of the 9th Panzer Division, which had arrived from Nîmes shortly before. Joining this device are the remains of the 308th Armored Division and the 130th Panzer Lehr, mainly intended to slow the progress of the Allies by anti-tank ambushes.

Spearhead in Normandy

General Leclerc then never ceased to go to the front of the device of the XVth corps. After the Sarthe, the Leclerc division is at the forefront of the American device, carrying out an encirclement movement. Quickly, the troops of the XVth US Corps moved north, and it was the 2nd Armored Division that liberated Alençon on August 12, 1944, so quickly that the Germans were disconcerted. General Patton, commander of the Third Army, is full of praise for General Leclerc, who applied the principles of the all-out attack since the French entered Normandy.

The Americans therefore made the 2nd DB the spearhead of their attack on Argentan to close the Falaise pocket. However, after terrible fighting in the Écouves Forest sector, the French troops dispersed and overflowed their sector south of Argentan, to such an extent that they slowed the progress of the 5th American Armored Division at Sées. The Americans, launched towards Argentan, are somewhat delayed, and Leclerc is reprimanded by the American general commanding the 5th American DB because he has not respected the orders, possibly delaying the closure of the Falaise-Argentan pocket. Leclerc's French, having liberated Carrouges and Ecouché on August 13, launched a reconnaissance unit in the center of Argentan, but this unit was chased away by German armor during a counter-attack.

It is clear that the Germans will defend the city fiercely. Leclerc, who for a time occupied the southern heights of the Norman city, then requested authorization to send the bulk of his troops to Paris to liberate the capital. The American high command and in particular Eisenhower must decide.

Liberation of Paris

Following the order received from their chain of command, the American combat units stopped for some time in front of Argentan in order to push the 2nd Armored Division forward in anticipation of the liberation of Paris. The high command ended up insisting:Paris must be liberated by the French. The Americans thus allowed the combatants of the 2nd Armored Division to distinguish themselves by becoming the first Allied unit to enter Paris on August 24 and 25, 1944 and to receive the surrender of Dietrich von Choltitz.

The 2nd Armored Division left Paris on September 8, 1944 in the morning and marched east. It will face the German forces of Manteuffel and then Feuchtinger. At Dompaire, on September 13, 1944, it crushed the 112th Panzerbrigade (59 tanks destroyed) which disappeared from the German order of battle.

It releases Baccarat on November 1. It marks a break in front of the Vor-Vogesen-Stellung, a line going from Blâmont to Badonviller, along the Vosges, from Donon to the Bitche region. To the north, it barred the Saverne gap and the road to Strasbourg.

Liberation of Strasbourg

The road leading to Strasbourg is marked by severe fighting.

On November 23, 1944, Strasbourg was liberated. When Lieutenant-Colonel Rouvillois enters Strasbourg, he launches the famous coded phrase "Fabric est dans iode" to signal his success in taking the Alsatian capital.
Celebrations of the 60th anniversary of the liberation from Strasbourg. On November 23, 1944, the 2nd Armored Division entered Strasbourg. The city is liberated. Leclerc then addresses the Alsatians in these terms:“The spire of your cathedral has remained our obsession. We had sworn to wear the national colors there again. It's done. »
The "oath of Kufra":Swear not to lay down your arms until our colors, our beautiful colors, float on the cathedral of Strasbourg. General Leclerc.

January-February 1945:Pocket of Colmar

The Berghof, Hitler's second home

On May 4, 1945, a detachment of the 2nd Armored Division arrived in Berchtesgaden. According to some authors7, the elements of the 2nd D.B. were the first to enter the Kehlsteinhaus (the eagle's nest), from the night of May 4 to 5.

In fact, several units claim the fact that their men reached the "Nid d'aigle" first, in particular:
Elements of the 2nd French Armored Division, Georges Buis and Paul Repiton-Préneuf , who would have been present from the night of May 4 to 5, and should have left on the 10th at the request of the American command, after having taken numerous photographs.
The 3rd American Infantry Division, supported by the writings of Herman Louis Finnell, of the 7th Regiment, 1st Company9, which is confirmed by General Maxwell D. Taylor10, claimed to have been present as early as May 10.
The Easy Company, of the 506th Infantry Regiment, US 101st Airborne Division11 also claims to have arrived first.


The unit counts 1,687 killed including 108 officers, 3,300 wounded12 and 58 light and medium tanks lost while it causes the Axis forces the loss of 4,500 soldiers killed, as well as 11,000 German prisoners captured in Paris, 5,000 German prisoners captured in Strasbourg, finally 118 heavy and medium tanks destroyed.

The Defense History Service inflicts 1,224 killed (including 96 North Africans) and 5,257 wounded (including 584 North Africans) from August 4, 1944 to May 8, 1945.

The Monument commemorative place of August 25, 1944 in Paris lists the names of 1,658 soldiers of Leclerc who died for France between 1940 and 1946. Nearly 8% are North African soldiers.

After war

The 2nd Armored Division was dissolved on March 31, 1946 before being reborn later.

As part of the Army overhaul removing the divisional level, the 2nd Armored Division was renamed 2nd Armored Brigade.





"Here sounded for the first time the march of the 2nd D.B. on March 11, 1945 in the presence of General Leclerc Marshal of France".

The march of the 2nd DB was composed by Maurice Le Roux in 1944 and performed for the first time at the Château de Saint-Germain-en-Laye on March 11, 1945 in the presence of General Leclerc. A plaque affixed in the gardens of the castle commemorates this event.


The 2nd Armored Division was cited twice at the orders of the Army (December 28, 1944 and January 10, 1945) and received the Presidential Unit Citation, in particular for the liberation of Strasbourg.


Chad Marching Regiment
501st Combat Tank Regiment
1st Moroccan Spahis Marching Regiment
3rd Colonial Artillery Regiment
12th African Chasseurs Regiment
12th Cuirassier Regiment
64th Artillery Regiment


"The "Champagne" Sherman tank, of the 12th RCA, put out of action on September 13, 1944 in Ville-sur-Illon, and still preserved".

Several monuments have been erected in homage to the 2nd DB. This is particularly the case at Fyé (Sarthe) south of Alençon, the work of the sculptor G. Humeau which bears an impressive list of men killed by the enemy, as well as the column victories.

A few American tanks that were part of the 2nd Armored Division and that were destroyed in combat, including M4 Shermans, have been preserved to this day:


Other tanks and vehicles representing the 2nd Armored Division are preserved as monuments or in collections in France, but these are not the original vehicles that took part in the fighting.

Division Commanders

June 28, 1943:General Leclerc; the DFL becomes the 2nd Armored Division.
June 22, 1945:Colonel then General Dio (change of command)


Column Leclerc:100 French and 300 Africans
Force L:800 French and 4,000 Africans
2nd DB:2,500 free French, 4,000 escapees from France, 1 000 North Africans, 63 Rochambelles, followed by 5,000 volunteers in France

According to the Revue historique des armies of the Service historique de la Défense, the 2nd Armored Division comprised, during the Normandy landings, around 14,000 men, including 3,350 "subjects of the Empire" and was made up equally of "maréchalistes" and " Gaullists” (former from Chad, engaged from Tunisia, Corps franc from Africa, escapees from France…)

According to Jean-François Muracciole, the 2nd DB included 7,000 men from units of the African Army, 4,000 FFL (veterans of Chad and the "flying column") and 2,500 escapees from Spain

Leclerc has succeeded in the feat of amalgamation and forged a motivated and homogeneous troop.

Units of the 2nd Armored Division in 1944

Combat units

3 Tank Regiments :
501st Combat Tank Regiment (M4 Sherman)
12th African Chasseurs Regiment
12th Cuirassier Regiment ( M4 Sherman)
1 Reconnaissance Regiment :
1st Moroccan Spahis Marching Regiment (armored cars)
1 Tank Destroyer Regiment :
Armored marine rifle regiment (tank destroyers M10 Wolverine)
1 Mounted infantry regiment :
Chadian Marching Regiment

1st Battalion of the Chadian Marching Regiment
2nd Battalion of the Chadian Marching Regiment
3rd Battalion of the Chadian Marching Regiment

3 Artillery Regiments:
3rd Colonial Artillery Regiment
64th Artillery Regiment
40th North Artillery Regiment -African
1 Anti-Aircraft Artillery Group:
22nd F.T.A. Colonial Group
1 Engineer Battalion:
13th Engineer Battalion

3 Combat and deck crew companies

Transmission units
Transport units

1 medical battalion:
3 medical companies

1st medical company and group of ambulance women Rochambeau (Rochambelles)
2nd medical company and group of ambulance women of the Navy (Marinettes)
3rd medical company and group of English volunteers (Quakers)

1 road traffic detachment (DCR)

Total combat vehicles in formation:

85 M3 Stuart light tanks (type M3A3)
165 M4 Sherman medium tanks
36 M10 Wolverine tank destroyers
64 armored cars
664 Half-track and Scout Car
27 Self-propelled 75 mm Howitzers (type M8 HMC)
54 Self-propelled 105 mm Howitzers ( type M7 Priest)

Organic units

Signal Company 97/84
97th Headquarters Company
197th Transportation Company
297th Transportation Company
397th Highway Traffic Company
497th Service Company
13th Operations Group
15th Operations Group repair squads
13th Medical Battalion

The Spanish Republicans and the Nueve

About 300 to 350 Spaniards21,22, veterans of the war in Spain, passed through the internment camps of the French Republic then volunteered in the Foreign Legion to escape the expulsion to Francoist Spain decided by Pétain, were transferred with their unit to Oran. After the American landing in North Africa, they participated in the crushing of the Afrika Korps in Tunisia within the Corps Francs d'Afrique formed under the command of General Giraud to integrate into the American army corps. Immediately afterwards, at the time of De Gaulle's seizure of power in Algiers and the elimination of Giraud, these Spanish republicans deserted at the instigation of very warm Gaullist recruiting officers in whom they recognized the committed rebels that they were. themselves and feared by their previous officers, and enlisted in part23 in the 2nd Armored Division which was being formed. Most of them (146 of the 160 soldiers composing this company24) were gathered in the 9th Company – baptized “La Nueve” – of the Régiment de marche du Tchad (RMT), commanded by Captain Raymond Dronne, an early Gaullist. /P>

This Hispanic company within the 2nd Armored Division, like the Belgian or Polish units, fought from the Normandy landings, the black troops having been demobilized on the orders of the Americans who refused that "negroes" could fight for freedom (the American staff will authorize the black regiments to fight from the battle of the Ardennes), with an objective well beyond Strasbourg, a political commitment still as asserted and in addition an experience dating back to 1936 which made it an elite unit.

It was to this unit of Captain Raymond Dronne that General Leclerc himself, aware of the audacity of the maneuver, gave the order on August 24, 1944 to move as quickly as possible through the German defensive belt to the south of Paris where battles take place and where many soldiers of the division have already lost their lives, to announce to the population the arrival of the division for the following day and to join the insurgents. With one section remaining broken down, Captain Dronne brought together two sections of the 9th company of the RMT, a tank section of the 2nd company of the 501st RCC and a section of the 13th engineer battalion.

Thus, supported by three Sherman tanks of the 501st RCC, which bore the names of Romilly, Champaubert and Montmirail and their engineering comrades, these Spanish Republicans were the first to enter the capital on the evening of August 24 for the Liberation of Paris and to reach by Portes d'Orléans and Porte d'Italie place de l'Hôtel de Ville on their light armored vehicles, eleven halftracks bearing the names of Guadalajara, Madrid, Ebro, Guernica, etc.

It was again at La Nueve that General De Gaulle entrusted his security to parade on the Champs-Élysées, the day after the famous speech “Paris outraged…”, when the crowd was still the object of sporadic German fire.
Tactical regrouping of units during the charge of Strasbourg (November 1944)

Louis Dio's Group

1st Battalion of the Chadian Marching Regiment
12th Cuirassier Regiment
3rd Colonial Artillery Regiment
1st Engineering Company
1st Medical Company
4th then 5th esc of Moroccan Spahis [ref. desired]
1 tank-destroyer squadron of the Armored Marine Rifle Regiment

Langlade Group

2nd Battalion of the Chadian Marching Regiment
12th African Chasseurs Regiment
40th North African Artillery Regiment
2nd Engineering Company
2nd Medical Company
2nd Moroccan Spahis Squadron
1 tank-destroyer squadron of the Armored Rifle Regiment -sailors

Guillebon Group

3rd Battalion of Chadian Marching Regiment
501st Combat Tank Regiment
64th Artillery Regiment
3rd Engineer Company
3rd Medical Company
3rd squadron of Moroccan Spahis
1 squadron of tank-destroyers of the Armored Marine Regiment

Remy Group

1st, 4th, 6th, 7th and 8th squadrons of Moroccan Spahis
1 squadron of destroyers of the Armored Marine Regiment

Variable artillery and engineering additions